When I taught elementary school, we often had some people come in to talk to the children about the difference in secrets and surprises. Their explanation was that surprises have happy endings and secrets are to be kept forever and can hurt people. They cautioned the children that if an adult suggested keeping something a secret, that was a sign to tell a parent or teacher.
I’ve been thinking recently about the differences and about secrets I’ve been burdened with. When people confide in me, they may feel better but I do not. I then carry that burden with them–a secret never to be shared.
For example, I know a single mother who had too many mouths to feed and chose an adoption plan for her fourth baby. I know of a situation where the woman’s uncle is actually her birth father, though never recognized as such. I know of affairs repented of and yet those secrets are now mine to keep. Most secrets seem to have sexual overtones, but I also know of unpaid personal loans and alcoholism that is concealed by the family. So secrets never revealed are not about something good.
Planned surprises, however, are usually good. Surprise birthday parties are often more fun for the planners than for the recipients of the party. Being an insider with the plans for a great surprise is fun but also carries with it great responsibility. Often temporary deception is required to surprise the honoree.
Many of us remember one particular surprise that touched our hearts. Receiving a pined-for doll, taking a child to the circus or to a professional baseball game, plane tickets for a trip with beloved cousins, receiving an heirloom from a relative or treasured friend–all bring warm, loving responses.
And now I have a secret that will end in a great and wonderful surprise. I am bursting to tell, but I cannot. I do not bear this delight alone; a few others know. But as I travel, I have found that I can share this secret with strangers, for they will not be able to let the cat out of the bag.
Part of my difficulty is that I don’t have an ending date for the surprise. Only time will tell that. Meanwhile, I am excited and impatient. (If you think you know my surprise, email me to make your guess.) This is a good exercise in patience. I have the Galatians prompt to “love, joy, peace,” but I’m still working on patience and the other five lovely fruits of the Spirit.